Thursday, 18 February 2016

It's not just a SHARK sanctuary......

Mitch and I exploring Peleliu Island
Sharks. Jellyfish. When someone mentioned Palau, those were the first two things I thought about: the iconic photos of snorkellers floating in a sea of golden jellies and divers watching a wall of sharks. Thankfully, since I've been working in Palau, my mental images are secure! Palau had always been a bucket-list place for me to go for diving and so far it’s living up to expectations!

The diving can be challenging, with fierce currents rushing over the tops of the reef corners, but the fish life that comes hand in hand with those currents is spectacular. I’d done a lot of diving in currents before arriving in Palau, but the feeling of floating in the current whilst hooked in, with sharks patrolling just a few feet in front of you, is really amazing and like nothing I’ve experienced before.

One of the main reasons I’d wanted to work in Palau was due to its distinction of being the world’s first shark sanctuary – anywhere that marine and eco-friendly surely has to be a great place to dive! The government efforts have paid off, you really notice the difference in pelagic life compared to places with slightly more relaxed fishing rules. I was lucky enough to see my first tiger shark this season, a very exciting encounter!

There’s not as much macro life as I’d have expected, especially being so close to the coral triangle, but I suppose the strong oceanic currents have discouraged the little things! Having said that, our finds of pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish and orang-utan crabs are all the more welcome when you’re not used to seeing them all of the time J

Me @ Jelly Fish Lake
One of the nicest things about Palau, for me, is the variety. From caves and wrecks to walls and reefs, it’s difficult to be bored! The trips have a great variety of dives so it’s brilliant to be able to show the guests the range of things Palau has to offer. My favourite dive sites are Blue Corner and Chandelier Caves (it’s impossible to just pick one!). Blue Corner is just one of those dive sites you can dive over and over and it’s always fantastic – depending on the strength and direction of the current, the dive changes each time with different marine life to see, even a bad Blue Corner dive is always a good dive! Apart from the sharks, I love the schooling jacks we find there, they’re beautiful to watch shimmering together as they swim against the current. Chandelier Cave is just a seriously iconic dive site – it’s not really a ‘dive’ in that you spend most of the time above the water, but the caverns are stunning with so many different stalactites and helictites to see, plus the reflections that are cast from the daylight coming in through the entrance are awesome.

Palau itself is a lovely place, albeit a little small! Once you escape the port it becomes beautiful lush countryside full of flowers and tropical plants – a day off exploring showed the more tropical side of the island. It’s hard sometimes being so remote, the internet connection is pretty dismal (thank goodness for the satellite internet on board to be able to send Christmas messages back home!), but the perks of tropical island life (sand, sea, sun!) plus the great diving makes it all worthwhile. 

They do say that all good things must come to an end – we have only a couple of trips left of the season before we head off to the Philippines and Tubbataha (which should prove to be some equally epic diving!).  However, good things also come to those who wait - I'm looking forward to being back in Palau next season!

Written by Amanda Jayne Bond - Dive Guide & Scuba Instructor

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